Learning to listen
For more than 25 years, I’ve listened to well over 10,000 stories as a film producer and story consultant. Over time, I observed that when I was listening to the best stories, there was something deeper going on. Or as I like to say, “a story behind the story”. To get to that truth has involved learning to actively listen. To quietly give the storyteller all the time they need. Because that is when things are revealed.
In our modern workplaces, listening is paramount. It’s not a skill that any of us put on our CVs, but truly, it can change the way you work, the way you communicate and how you deal with issues.
And what about when someone listens to us? Well, things can become, dare I say it, quite emotional—we feel heard; we feel valued. It can completely change how we feel about coming to work each day.
Demands on our time and attention
So how has this basic act become such a rare commodity? We live in a world that demands our time and attention. It’s constant and it’s overwhelming. If it’s not the people around us, it’s our screens and devices. All vying for our attention. The world has become incredibly noisy. Messaging platforms, social media, emails, phone calls. A knock at the door almost feels nostalgic. So how do we listen; how do we hear each other?
Find the quiet
A simple way to quieten the noise is to step outside. Take yourself for a walk. This can be in an urban setting, along the shoreline or a stroll down a leafy street. It can be anywhere, but if possible, try and go somewhere away from the sound of traffic, sirens, or rumbling trains. As you walk, take the time to tune in to sounds from the natural world. This may be birdsong or the wind in the trees. When we consciously tune in to these sounds it somehow recalibrates our brainwaves, and realigns our hearts and minds. We slow down. And maybe the people you encounter, and the rest of your day will be better for it.
Tune in to someone else
Listening takes time. If time is something you don’t have, I would highly recommend you make time. Simply listening to another person for just five minutes can have lasting consequences. To do this, take the time necessary, ask simple questions and open up a common space between you both. Questions such as, “What happened next?”, “Why do you think you did that?”, “How did you feel?”, “How do you feel now?” Try and listen in a non-judgmental way—no sighs or audible reactions.
In doing so, you’re inviting them to step into a wider, more open space. There’s great power in this act. A new trust has been born between you both.